Pride and Prejudice in Post-Heroic Public Spheres

Bernhard Forchtner


This paper derives from an interest in theorizing the increasing number of public admissions of wrongdoing by various civil society actors as well as state officials over the past decades. It therefore introduces the idea of “grammars†underlying particular debates in the public sphere and suggests a partial shift from a heroic to a post-heroic grammar. It is such a wider societal development that enables concrete, self-critical narratives, and performances concerning the aforementioned admissions of past wrongdoing. I illustrate this development by reviewing the case of Germany and, generally, welcome this development. However, I also conceptualize one misuse of apologetic practices. Following Camus’ novel, The Fall, I label this phenomenon judge-penitence;: instead of narrating the self as glorious or heroic, it is, through admissions of wrongdoing, constructed as guilty. This is then selfrighteously turned against others in order to construct them as morally inferior. In conclusion, I argue that, although recent changes in remembrance-culture should be welcomed, counterintuitive misuses – although unlikely to be widespread – are possible and, thus, self-complacency should be avoided.

Słowa kluczowe

collective memory; (cultural) trauma; Holocaust; judge-penitence; political apologies; postheroism; public sphere

Pełny tekst:



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